Thursday, October 16, 2008

Manufactured Landscapes

This week I finally got around to seeing Manufactured Landscapes.

The tone for the evening was set about ten minutes into the film when Tab looked over and said, "I thought this was supposed to be about a photographer."

"I dunno," I shrugged. "I thought so too."

So our expectations were off. As it turned out, this was not a movie primarily about a photographer (in this case Edward Burtynsky). Instead, Manufactured Landscapes is a documentary about industrial development mainly in China with a few scenes from other countries. As a cinematic snapshot of where the world is at, the film is pretty good. It will probably be interesting to watch in 50 years or however long it takes the world to finish manufacturing all of our landscapes.

Bao Steel #3, Shanghai 2005 by Edward Burtynsky
Save yourself the rental fee and just stare at this photo for 90 minutes

However, as a film about a photographer or photography in general, I have to say that Manufactured Landscapes sucks. It tells virtually nothing about Burtynsky's training, methods, influences, style, personality, daily life, or interests. During many of the long singleshot takes scattered throughout, the film is basically the cinematic equivalent of looking at a Burtynsky photo for five or ten minutes. I don't have to go to the movies to get that experience. I can do it at my own pace in a book or on the computer. All in all, IMO a good movie for cultural historians but not for photographers.

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